The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort, first published in 1972, was a groundbreaking book, explaining and exploring passion as never before. So I was thrilled when I was recently asked to “reinvent” and update this classic.
This reinvention contains almost all the original material plus substantial additions, and completely new artwork. Now available as an Ebook, it’s truly a sex manual for the 21st century. This prompted me to consider how sex has changed over the 40 years since original publication. Here’s my take:
Since 1972, there have been huge changes in the scientific study of sexuality. We now know so much more about the role played by our brains, our nerves, our hormones — plus we understand far more fully the sexual journey through desire, arousal, climax and recovery.
We also now have a whole branch of medical and therapeutic science devoted to the treatment of sexual dysfunction, through medications such as the “little blue pill,” and through psychosexual therapy. We are now far more advanced in our prevention and treatment of sexually-caused illnesses such as HIV and cervical cancer.
Attitudes to Sex
We may seem to have become more inhibited and accepting of sex since 1972. We have more sexual partners, start having sex at younger ages and are more tolerant of sexual activity, sexual fantasy, sex for elders, sex for the disabled and gay/lesbian rights.
But we’re also now more puritan. We are now aware of the harm thoughtless sex creates. A rise in religious belief has led to abstinence programs. And while And Comfort suggested that voyeurism, outdoor sex, open relationships and group orgies would become the norm, clearly they have not!
The Role of Women
Comfort was ahead of his time in writing that women enjoyed sex. But he was very much of his time in seeing female sexuality as male-oriented and in not realizing that women’s desires can be very different from men’s.
We’ve come a long way. We now realize the crucial part played by the clitoris, the importance of female climax and the role emotion plays in women’s sexuality.
It was just a few months after the original launch of The Joy of Sex that the Internet was came to life. And that eventually changed everything, allowing an endless variety of sexual needs and preferences to be catered to online, allowing us to find sexual partners instantly and worldwide.
We can also now make love at a distance through phone and Skype. We have more electronic gadgets, including a thousand new types of vibrators, some of which can be used long-distance. And the future, apparently, holds the promise of implants that can help us orgasm at the touch of a button.
The Amount of Joy
In one way, we seem to have lost joy since 1972. We live in a sexualised society and it shows. There is constant pressure to have sex, to have more se sex, to have better sex. Add to this rising rates of pregnancy termination, infection, infidelity, prostitution and rape, and it’s clear that nowadays sex is, for many people, far from a happy experience.
In the end, though, when you strip away all the shifts I’ve outlined, you are left with the act of sex as a constant and constantly rewarding act. Which is why, even though the new book reflects huge changes, it is still, at heart, a book about us all experiencing “the joy of sex” in the same way that humans have done since the world began.
Learn more about Susan Quilliam at susanquilliam.com.